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May is national Heart Health Month

PaulaBy Paula Bowers-Sanchez

The importance of keeping your heart healthy is paramount. Your heart is the control center of your body. All your daily activities are only possible if your heart is in good working condition.

Keeping your blood pressure within optimal ranges (120 over 80) – along with optimal cholesterol levels, sensible eating habits and getting regular exercise – will help you maintain a healthy heart.

Get your blood pressure checked as often as you can. Many pharmacies and grocery stores have blood pressure checking stations. So, while you’re there picking up your supplies or groceries, stop and check your blood pressure. You should check with your health care professional for your personal optimal level according to your age, gender and other factors.

Equally important is keeping your cholesterol levels in check. Your total cholesterol should be less than 200.

Within that number, your LDL number should be less than 100; this is commonly referred to as the “bad” cholesterol. When there is too much LDL circulating through your blood, it can cause plaque build-up in your arteries, causing them to narrow and harden and become less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.

Your HDL should be 60 or higher. This is referred to as “good” cholesterol. Studies prove that high levels of HDL can protect against heart attacks. On the other hand, low levels of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease.

Your triglycerides should be less than 150. Triglyceride is a form of fat made in the body. People with elevated levels of triglycerides usually have a high total cholesterol level. Individuals diagnosed with heart disease and diabetes usually maintain high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol – these individuals also are likely to have high triglycerides levels.

When talking about controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, make sure to include sensible eating habits in the equation. Eating “sensibly” means eating the right amount of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It doesn’t mean we have to starve or deprive ourselves of our favorite foods; it means to be mindful of what we put into our bodies on a daily basis.

For example, we know it’s not healthy to eat pizza or fast food every day. But, it’s OK to have one of those choices once in a while.

Now, when it comes to exercise, you all know I am a huge advocate of any form of exercise. As long as you get up and get your body moving for at least 30 minutes to an hour, four or more times a week, you will definitely see improvements.